Often when I write about a particular wine and include a pairing recipe the responses are varied. Some are seeking out info on where to purchase the exact wine mentioned, others are just interested in trying a new wine from a grape or region they haven’t explored before with a dish to complement it. Regardless, based on search terms used to direct readers to my little corner of the blogosphere it seems that interest in exploring new flavors and food and wine culture is growing.
A recent post by wine writer Robert Joseph got me thinking about how the general population perceives food and wine matching in relation to wine sales. Pictures depicting wine and food together are rare in print ads, wine guides and shelf talkers. More often than not instead of conjuring up images of enjoying wine with a splendid meal and friends the visuals include steel tanks, sexy babes or lush, green, rolling vineyards. Considering that wine is still served with both lunch and dinner in many cultures I find this puzzling. Do vintners and their marketing teams think the image of food will compete with product branding or confuse the consumer? With many people still intimidated by merely selecting a wine wouldn’t the helpful suggestion on what to serve it with be a better choice than half naked women?
It can be hard to nudge someone out of a wine rut, fear has kept many drinkers more comfortable to just purchase that old stand by. Why not take a leap and help them out with a more user friendly approach? It doesn’t have to be a suggestion that requires an arsinal of exotic spices, a sous chef or fine china. Traditional or regional pairing suggestions/recipes have been around for centuries, many feature basic techniques that could lead to creative culinary exploration! A little guidance never hurt anyone.
In many cultures, not so long ago, even children would be served a small taste of a regional wine with dinner. When I was training as a chef two of my mentors were old school Europeans, one from Northern Italy the other a Frenchman who included as much wine into his recipes as he drank daily. Routinely they argued over what wine to serve with each dish but one belief they both shared was that wine was in fact as much a part of the meal as the meal itself. They even went so far as to suggest that wine was food, thinking of it like a finishing sauce that tied together the delicious flavors and aromas of each meal they prepared. For me a major part of wine enjoyment is inexplicably tied to food, sure I enjoy certain wines on their own but the sage advise of these two culinary curmudgeons, reluctant to show a women around the kitchen will always stay with me.
So, I ask you? Does the average home cook seek guidance on recreating food and wine matchings for their daily meal or is it something reserved for special evenings? When shopping in your local wine store are you more likely to try a new wine if photos of pairing suggestions or recipes to pair with a fairly easy meal were provided? Are there any factors in relation to food that would sway your decision when making a wine selection or do you just wing it?
Below are some vintage ads I found in my culinary collection. It seems wines featuring food suggestions are most often illustrations.